By Calvince Owiti
I was born about two decades ago in a small village in Western parts of Kenya. I grew up in a humble background, learning all that was relevant that time. My grandparents were herbal medical practitioners. I lived with them most of my early life even though my parents were still alive. My grandfather kept on calling me ‘ajuoga’(meaning doctor). Before he became a herbalist, he had been to a seminary where he was training as a father but left before finishing for a driving job in Tanzania. He could urge me every morning to study hard in class to become a modern doctor. They could treat all conditions, including malaria, curses as well as a number of obstetric/gynecological conditions. However; there was one practice that kept me wondering…
At that time, the level of sanitation in the village was totally messy. There was neither clean water nor the knowledge about water treatment. Pit latrines or toilets were a non-issue in most households. Once or twice in a week people would come to them (grandparents) with complaints of epigastric pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. A diagnosis of ‘collapsed heart’ would be quickly made and treatment instituted immediately (that’s the literal translation of what I heard in Luo dialect). Typically, treatment involved giving some concoctions, leaching on the epigastic region followed by planting a bean seed under a water pot. The germination of the seed would mark the restoration of the heart to its normal position. Failure to germinate was bad news. Temporary relief of pain was provided but people could still complain of the same symptoms two to three weeks later.
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